By Brecken Branstrator

Hamilton, Bermuda--Signet Jewelers Ltd. said that both same-store sales and total sales were down amid “challenging market conditions” in its third quarter ended Oct. 29.

The company reported Tuesday that same-store sales were down 2 percent in the 13-week period, marking the second consecutive quarter they were down. A decline during the quarter was expected, though the actual decrease was less than predicted--in the second quarter, the company indicated it expected Q3 comps to be down between 3 percent and 5 percent.

Meanwhile, total sales in the third quarter decreased nearly 3 percent to $1.19 billion in the third quarter, and total sales on a constant currency basis declined almost 1 percent.

The company attributed the decline in sales to under-performance in select stores, like some regional stores and some Jared stores, weakness in states where the economy is tied to the energy industry and declines in select collections such as Charmed Memories and watches.

This was slightly offset by strong performances during the quarter from fashion diamond jewelry, gold jewelry and select branded bridal, especially the Neil Lane and Vera Wang collections.

By operating segment, Sterling Jewelers’ same-store sales decreased 4 percent. Within this, comps at Kay during the period declined 3 percent while comps at Jared decreased 5 percent.

The Zale division, which includes Zales stores in the United States and Canada as well as Piercing Pagoda, saw comps decrease by more than 1 percent, with Zale US down by 2 percent.

Signet’s operating income was $32.1 million in the third quarter, compared with $33.6 million in the prior-year period.

The company also noted that it is continuing to review its credit program, which has come under some scrutiny in the past, and is looking into a number of options from retaining and optimizing the current in-house credit business to seeking a partnership that would enable it to gain greater financial flexibility.

Signet Jewelers also launched its clienteling system in Kay and Jared stores, which allows them to capture customer information to improve interactions between them and the sales team.

The company outlined a number of holiday season initiatives for the fourth quarter in its earnings call, including more targeted messaging and advertising in its marketing plan, expanding the Ever Us line with new extensions, leveraging the arm and ear trends with more products like stacking bracelets and ear climbers, and extending the Vera Wang collection into fashion jewelry.

Still, when it comes to the fourth quarter, Signet said its guidance remains the same, with comps expected to decrease between 2 and 4 percent in a “relatively uncertain environment.”

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